ST. LOUIS – Whew!
Those collective breaths could be felt and heard coming through the hallway leading into the Blues locker room following a 2-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night, snapping the Blues' seven-game losing streak (0-6-1).
"Maybe a little breath," goalie Carter Hutton joked following the game after he backstopped the win with 35 saves. "We can't get too comfy. It's one win. But it's stuff we can build off, and I believe for us, in this group, we had a good meeting [Tuesday]. It obviously didn't go the way we wanted [Tuesday]. But we have a lot of faith in these guys and tonight we showed it."
Not since Feb. 9 had the Blues (35-26-4) tasted victory, and in that amount of time, the Blues had gone from third place in the Central Division and two points out of first place, if you can believe it, to having to win Wednesday to pull into a tie for the second wildcard in the Western Conference.
"It's a good time to build. We've got a long stretch here," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored the eventual game-winner in the third period Wednesday. "We're on the road for a while against some teams that we're trying to catch. It's a good character win after a tough loss [Tuesday] night on a back-to-back and coming back. Maybe a little bit lower energy but it's a good time, you know, a good character win. Take [Thursday] and Friday. It's a big one for us Saturday (at Dallas).
But having taken that all important first step to trying to gain back some semblance of a season and fight for a postseason spot, now the challenge is to build off of this win with 17 games remaining.
Beginning Thursday, in a span of seven days, the Blues will play only once while those around them will play multiple times.
So getting this win was critical so the Blues can give themselves some sort of chance within the next week to have a hand in their destiny moving forward.
"Yeah, it was huge," said center Kyle Brodziak, whose 19 minutes 14 seconds were a Blues high and the most minutes he's played in a regular-season game since Jan. 11, 2014 as a member of the Minnesota Wild, playing amazingly the exact 19:14. "The second game of back-to-back, I thought [Tuesday] night could have been pretty deflating the way the game went. But we came back and I think everybody refocused and we found a way to get the ‘W’ and that’s big."
To see the fourth line set the tone, trying to brush off the debris of this losing streak was a risk/reward opportunity for coach Mike Yeo, and he pushed the right button there.
Brodziak, Scottie Upshall and Chris Thorburn really put their teammates on their backs and set a tone that resonated with the rest of the lineup.
"Yeah, they got a little excited, they got a little excited for that, but that’s good," Yeo said of announcing that fourth line as the starting lineup. "They gave us the spark that we needed. I thought they were physical right off the hop and it got them engaged, it got them in the game."
And it was Upshall that helped the Blues score the first goal in a game for the first time in the past six.
"It plays a lot to what our record has been," Upshall said. "It's easy to fuel you. It was easy to get up for this game. We knew we needed it, we knew how important it was. Not just our line but every line. At times it didn't seem like it but at the same time, everyone was putting their best foot forward, giving the effort. The effort was there. It might not have looked pretty, at the same time, it's something to be proud of and moving forward, something to build off of."
And after Yeo really took the players at task for their performance in that dismal 8-3 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday, the onus was on the players called out, and those that weren't, to respond accordingly.
"We know the recipe, we know the game plan," Pietrangelo said. "We've got to go and execute and we did that tonight. Like I said, it's one game. It's been a long stretch, but it's really something to build off of. A good character win. We've really got to make sure we're ready for Saturday."
And for a team that has been to the playoffs each of the past six seasons, it can be easy at times to take wins for granted.
Not on this night, or any night moving forward, at least for the rest of this season.
"Yeah, I’m not taking it for granted tonight," Yeo said after the game. "We needed it. We needed this feeling. It’s not going to get easier, that’s not the case, but certainly it should help for guys to loosen up a little bit.
"We’ve been tight. You can see it in certain players, but I think the guys responded really well. ... A pretty good response by our guys today."
* NOTES -- It's been a rather tumultuous week for Thurburn.
After being waived on Sunday and going unclaimed, the oldest member of the team (34 years, nine months) could have taken a negative mental approach to being cast aside, which is almost what it feels like to be waived.
But Thorburn, who signed a two-year, $1.8 million contract last offseason, brushed aside the past couple days, put on his work boots and went out and helped his team out of a funk.
"It was crazy, up and down," Thorburn said. "I've been in a position my whole career pretty much like this. That fringe guy or whatever, but at the same time, just had confidence and belief. It worked out. Not to say that anything can happen.
"At the same time, I'm here now and while I'm here, I'm just going to put my best foot forward and try to help the team any way I can."
It's one of the reasons why teammates love Thorburn and respect his voice in the room.
"It wasn’t an easy situation, I’m sure, for him," Brodziak said. "The way everything went down, I don’t think it was easy for him or his family either. To still have him around, I think guys are happy and excited about that. Tonight he comes in and does a heck of a job for our team. It was impressive that he can put that behind him and move forward."
Thorburn may have only played 8:04, but he tied for the team-high in hits with Brayden Schenn (four), had a shot on goal and blocked one.
"Now he's playing big minutes for us and it was a big game for him," Upshall said of Thorburn. "He went through a lot the other day. It was a crazy day for him, for our group especially. He's a big part of this team, he leads by example, he's a big voice in our room and having him in our lineup's a big thing for our group and it was a big game to build off of and hopefully, we continue to do that."